Oregon State men's basketball is making a habit of stepping on the gas pedal at just the right time, often breaking open a game on its way to victory.
The Beavers did that again Sunday, as UCLA evaporated its six-point halftime deficit and threatened to spoil OSU’s party at Gill Coliseum.
The necessary defensive adjustments were made and soon the Beavers found themselves opening a 17-3 run that put the home team in control and on its way to a 79-66 Pac-12 win.
Brothers Ethan and Stevie Thompson had 17 points and six assists each and Kylor Kelley and Tres Tinkle chipped in 14 apiece as OSU (11-4, 3-0) won its first three conference games for the first time in 26 years.
UCLA guard Jaylen Hands made two 3-pointers in less than 30 seconds as the Bruins (10-7, 3-1) worked their way into the lead after trailing the entire first half.
“Our guys did a good job of getting me to move on and say, now it’s our turn. We’re going to make our run,” Beavers coach Wayne Tinkle said. “They took it to the court and did that.”
Consecutive baskets by Alfred Hollins and Stevie Thompson put the Beavers back in front at 45-43 as Oregon State’s offense caught traction midway through the second half.
Warren Washington finished a conventional three-point play on a Tres Tinkle assist. Zach Reichle hit a corner 3-pointer on an Ethan Thompson pass. Hollins banked in a 12-footer in the key to cap a 7-0 run for a 54-47 lead.
UCLA broke the run with a free throw, but Ethan Thompson’s 3-pointer with 8:32 remaining pushed the advantage to nine.
Thompson later scored six straight points in the game, including another 3-pointer with 5:32 remaining to end that stretch, to give OSU a 63-50 lead.
The Bruins got no closer than 11 from there, while the Beavers led by as many as 18.
UCLA came in shooting well, having made 52.1 percent from the floor in its first three conference games. The Bruins were 24 of 63 (38.1 percent) Sunday, including 8 of 29 (27.6) in the first half.
Hollins says offense will come and go, but defense is the focus in practice.
“I think that’s the main thing our coaching staff harps on us, getting a nice amount of reps on defense and taking it to the court,” he said.
OSU was 29 of 61 (47.5 percent) for the game. Kelley was 6 of 6 from the field to go with five blocks.
The game saw the return of Tres Tinkle, OSU’s leading scorer, who missed Thursday’s home win against USC with a seriously sprained left ankle suffered Jan. 5 at Oregon.
The junior forward was clearly not at 100 percent but still contributed six rebounds, six assists, five steals and a block.
Ethan Thompson said the defense had to be accountable of Tinkle even though he wasn’t completely healthy.
“At all times no matter where he is, in the post, off the ball and on the ball. He does a good job of being a leader, vocally and by example,” Thompson said, noting visions of his teammate diving for loose balls. “I think all the teammates saw that and gave us a little bit more energy.”
Coach Tinkle said his son’s return Sunday was a game-time decision.
“He didn’t have one of his typical games, but I thought he showed a lot of heart and then the rest of the guys just made play after play after play on both ends to get this win tonight,” he said.
The coach singled out the offensive and defensive contributions of Hollins, a sophomore forward who has come off the bench the past three games after starting the first 12 of the season.
Hollins had 11 points on 5-of-8 shooting plus four rebounds and an assist.
Kris Wilkes led UCLA with 21 points, five rebounds and four assists.
Kelley started quickly, scoring OSU’s first six points, the last four on lob dunks from Ethan Thompson. The 7-footer had 10 of the first 12 points in a 12-8 lead.
Stevie Thompson’s 3-pointer with 9:37 left gave the Beavers the lead for good in the half at 19-16. Ethan Thompson’s one-handed dunk in transition soon after got the home crowd into the game.
A Hollins 3-pointer saw the Beavers extended to their biggest lead of the half at 26-17. The Bruins got as close as four before Stevie Thompson’s two foul shots closed out the half.
UCLA, shooting 62.8 percent at the foul line coming into the game, couldn’t take advantage of its significant edge in free throw attempts in the half. The Bruins were 9 of 17 and the Beavers 4 of 5.
OSU shot 13 of 31 overall and UCLA 8 of 29.
Kelley finished the half with 12 points, making all five field goal tries plus two at the line. He also had three blocks.